How to get that interview in a highly competitive job market:

Since I just heard that there are 100 applicants for every car-washing job at a local business, I am again reminded how lucky I am to be employed. I love my job. I looked for work for two years before I found it, and was ‘unemployed’ for 18 months. After almost an entire lifetime of working, it was a humbling and delightful experience and I didn’t loose my shirt thanks to my marriage – an institution that still has it’s merits. But I sure was happy to snag that job just as my COBRA was expiring.

I have had the fortune (LOL) to be hiring for several positions in my work life and after a bout of job seeking myself, I have truly been surprised at the lack of sophisticated job seeking many candidates display even at upper levels of professional employment and management. So here are some hints and pet peeves shared from a gratefully employed and now hiring director in the health care field.

If you are fortunate enough to find an open position you want, here’s my suggestions for getting it:

~Have your résumé and your basic cover letter written by a professional.

Unless you are seeking your first job and have a very thin résumé, this is worth the 100.00-300.00 you may spend on it. There are many capable and trained professionals who can convert your worth and experience into very attractive and compelling words with perfect formatting and spelling. They will create an attractive template you can’t mess up, which you can then customize for each job application. Your competitors are likely to have a professionally written résumé so it’s worth every penny for you to do so. When you see their final copy you will be shocked at how fabulous you are. When you customize don’t introduce typos or awkward phrasing. Ask if your résumé writer will proof your edits.

~Mount a campaign, not just a job search.

I knew I was in a category of workers who were in oversupply in my area and who were expensive to hire. This put me in competition with a number of folks who were very experienced, and some who probably had sophisticated outplacement firms working on their behalf. Consider yourself part salesperson, part politician, part professional. You will have to aggressively, yet sensitively work your every single one of your connections. You will have to pitch yourself as a valuable commodity as well as represent yourself as a highly qualified professional – to every body you know.

~Know the company and its leadership.

If you are applying for a job without having read the company’s website shame on you. How hard is it to find a mission statement and use those concepts and words in your cover letter – and hopefully, the interview? Google their leadership, for heavens sake! Go to the library and ask for guidance from the reference desk. With a little Internet browsing, you can easily determine what the concerns, pressures and interests are of the persons who will be receiving your application. Make sure you are able to articulate how hiring you will make the job of fulfilling their mission easier, better, quicker etc. Take it a step further and research their competition.

~Quantify your worth.

Yes – put the numbers to your name on your résumé. Employers now are accountable to demonstrate a financial return on their investment for every position. Detail your worth in dollars on your résumé and quantify your accomplishments. Hiring you should make sense financially. Everyone can list skills and accomplishments but very few people quantify their accomplishments. Simply doing this will pop your résumé into the upper 10% of résumé’s that have crossed my desk. A number is worth a thousand words.

~Get a professional email address. doesn’t sell. Sorry, Betty. Enough said.

~Build your web presence.

Get a account and build a website, blog in your field. I tried to think of workers who really wouldn’t benefit from this, including my daughter who is a college student and waitress, and I couldn’t come up with anyone. Building a profile on the Internet is easy and essential to serious job seekers. allows you to work your connections easily. The people you know and the ones they know probably know someone at the company you are interested in working for.

A website under your name and listed on your résumé allows you to offer a great deal more information about yourself than would fit on a résumé or in a cover letter. It proves you are tech savvy. It allows you to profile projects that demonstrate your skills and accomplishments. Personally, I think a professional photo of you on a website allows your potential employer to engage more personally with you and may snag you an interview, if you look happy and engaged in life. A professional photographer can create an attractive image for anyone. Snapshots – no.

~Google yourself. If I’m interviewing you, I will already have done so.

I hope you don’t have a large incriminating footprint on the Internet. If there are a lot of unflattering photos of you tagged on face book, find a way to remove them. Take those personal ads down. Hiring guidelines will not allow employers to ask you a lot of personal questions, but believe me they are interested in the personality of their hires, since temperament and personal style are essential components to a good fit. If you have a troublesome footprint on the web, it may be easier to build more a more positive profile by adding a website than to undergo the stress and hassle of asking webmasters to remove content on you.

~Always follow directions.

If the job posting says send your materials to HR, do that. If you have uncovered the department head’s email or phone number, do not call. How do you think your cheery voicemail to “please call me back, I’m very interested in this position” sounds to a manager who has 50 résumé’s in his inbox daily? You might consider emailing them simply to notify them that you have submitted your materials to HR and are very interested in meeting about the position. Don’t ask questions about the job that would imply they should respond outside the indicated channels. Instead, work your connections in order to obtain a personally facilitated introduction.

~Always label your résumé with your name.

Why do people email HR departments who get hundreds of résumés per day a résumé with the filename “resume” or even cuter “shortresume” or “finaldraftresume” or my favorite: “momsresume”? To me, this demonstrates a lack of imagination about who and what is happening to your materials after they are sent. If you want to be extra considerate, label the file with your lastname and the position name!

~People who know your work and their connections are your most valuable asset.

Take them to lunch, to dinner, buy them a drink. Wash their car. Ask them to introduce you to their contacts, and make sure they are resoundingly thanked when they do. It’s very much better if they do so in person or by phone (not voicemail) or email. Give them a brief script, one or two lines you’d like them to convey about you. Don’t leave it all up to chance and good will. A simple email forwarding your résumé to a colleague of theirs marries their credibility to your pitch and puts you miles ahead.

If your network is too small, expand it. Get involved in trade associations, volunteer in your field, find non-profit boards with professionals in your field who are also board members and get on a committee or on the board itself. Churches, community groups, neighborhood associations are all places you can make connections and showcase your skills. Make sure they all know you are looking. Odds are one of them, and not will get you your next job.

~Given a choice, email your materials directly instead of submitting them online.

Most online submission forms remove that lovely formatting you paid for and make your résumé and cover letter very hard to read. If the company name is in the posting, odds are the job is posted on their website and you will find a direct email to submit to. The postings on the company website are nearly always more informative than the listing on a third party website where they have to pay for content. And you were going to do research there anyway, right?

~Offer detailed references:

You probably are pretty impressed with your reference list, but I’m not unless you tell me why I should be. A reference list is a commonly neglected opportunity to impress the employer. Beyond listing name and contact info (I always want an email address, by the way – plus any helpful hints on when it’s best to call them) briefly tell me who these people are, what they are currently doing and how they know your work. Employers are often interested not only in your skills, but in what kind of connections you may bring with you.

About Elizabeth

6832 North Avenue, Suite 4B Just west of Oak Park Avenue Phone: 312-815-9607 Email: Elizabeth (Betsy) was trained at Kansas State University (M.S.) and McCormick Theological Seminary (M.Div.) in counseling and psychotherapy. She is licensed to practice in the state of Illinois and is a member of the American Association of Pastoral Counseling. She practices the art and science of psychotherapy which is a form of listening and reflecting that engages our capacity to heal and transform the conditions and problems that undermine our mental health and wellness. It is useful for individuals, families and couples. It creates a safe space where the story of one’s life can unfold and become open for change.
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